Can grandparents see their grandchildren now and help with childcare?

Over five months down the line and lots of restrictions have now been eased, so can grandparents see their grandchildren now?
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  • The coronavirus pandemic meant that families were separated for many months at a time.

    As the UK went into lockdown from March 23, the rules meant that the public were not permitted to see members of their family outside of their household – which meant that many grandparents were no longer able to see their grandchildren.

    Many months down the line, some restrictions have been eased while England has gone into another lockdown as guidelines were put in place for November.

    Can grandparents see their grandchildren now?

    Can grandparents see their grandchildren again finally? At the moment while England is still under national lockdown restrictions for November, grandparents aren’t able to see their grandchildren unless they’re part of the household or support bubble. But with restrictions being lifted from December 2 and the new tier system after lockdown being announced, we know that grandparents will be able to see their grandchildren again very soon.

    Grandmother with granddaughter

    Credit: Getty

    Counting out Christmas lockdown rules for the moment as we’re not too sure when they’ll be announced, in December grandparents and grandchildren will be able to see each other again if they are living in any of the areas under the new tier system. However, there are still rules to be followed.

    In tier one, grandparents can visit their family members either inside or outside as long as there are only up to six people present while in tier two, families can also see each other in groups of up to six people but it has to be outside in a garden or public space. Families living in tier 3 can also still see each other outside but it has to be in a larger outside, public space such as the local park. This means that grandparents can see grandchildren with little restriction in tier one and still see them in tiers two and three, but with more limitations.

    In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon put 11 local authority areas across central and western Scotland, including Glasgow, into strict level four restrictions from November 20. During this time, informal childcare is allowed for the children of key workers and formal childcare is also allowed but will be subject to “targeted intervention”. This unfortunately means that for almost 40 percent of Scotland’s population, there can be no mixing of households for the time being and grandparents won’t be able to see their grandchildren until restrictions are lifted on December 11 unless they are the children of keyworkers.

    Wales has come out of the circuit breaker lockdown but it’s been announced that anyone you don’t live with “cannot come into your home, unless you have formed an extended household (or “bubble”) with them (except in very limited circumstances, such as tradespeople having to undertake work in your home). Likewise there are only very limited circumstances in which you can enter other people’s homes.” This means that at the moment in Wales, grandparents cannot see their grandchildren inside the house. However with some limitations, they can meet them outside.

    Those in Norther Ireland have been told they can form “one bubble with one other household” and this household can be any size. Any caring responsibilities are also excluded from the lockdown rules, including childcare so as well as being part of the bubble, grandparents can see their grandchildren for childcare purposes.

    All these rules are likely to change in the coming months, however, as the Christmas lockdown rules are announced and we find out whether there will be a January lockdown. To combat any confusion surrounding the rules, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised that all the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be coming together with similar restrictions, as well as sharing coronavirus testing resources.

    Some of the restrictions in England hark back to the first lockdown, when two households were not allowed to mix during the lockdown. Then in June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that two households could finally meet inside, which meant that grandparents could visit the home of one of their children, and as such, their grandchildren. This is still the case in any areas of the UK that are under the ‘medium’ risk level but not in regions where the tier is higher. However, unless a grandparent is in their family’s support bubble, the group indoors cannot exceed more than six people under the new restrictions coming into play across England from September 14.

    When can grandparents help with childcare?

    Credit: Getty

    Prime minister, Boris Johnson said when he initially made the announcement in June, “We advise that from 4 July, two households of any size should be able to meet in any setting inside or out. That does not mean they must always be the same two households.

    “It will be possible for instance to meet one set of grandparents one weekend, and the others the following weekend.”

    Many grandparents across the UK have been desperate to be reunited with much-loved grandchildren, after weeks and weeks of separation and conversations over video calls.

    However along with the new changes across England, it’s worth noting that there are some new areas that have since gone into a localised lockdown. This means that in some areas of Greater Manchester, such as Bolton, households are not permitted to mix – unless they are in the same support bubble.

    If grandparents are intending to mix with their families in the coming months, it’s also a good idea that everyone who is eligible in the household gets a flu vaccine, which are being offered to 30 million people across the country this year. The government is hoping that by expanding the programme, the NHS won’t be overwhelmed with those vulnerable to the winter flu and coronavirus.

    Can grandparents look after grandchildren?

    Yes, grandparents can provide childcare for their grandchildren now in many places around the UK – including in England in some cases.

    The government advising rules on the England lockdown has said that nannies will be able to continue to provide services during the lockdown, which will last until December 2, and parents can form a childcare bubble with another household for the purposes of informal childcare. But only if the child is under the age of 13. Households can, of course, form support bubbles with single-person households as well.

    When England comes out of lockdown, it’s thought that the country will once again take on three tier system restrictions. Whether childcare can be offered by grandparents very much depends on the restrictions in each reason.

    This comes as a relief for many many working parents, for whom lockdown has been a complicated and difficult juggling act – attempting to home school and do their job. And for parents who – pre Covid-19 – relied on their parents to help with childcare, it has also been a difficult balance.

    While we may be able to visit loved ones indoors, the government still advises that people maintain social distancing rules.

    Can grandparents hug their grandchildren now?

    Grandmother holding her grandson

    Credit: Getty

    Hugging is not encouraged, as doing so does not maintain the 1-meter distance rule. This means that, technically, most grandparents are still not able to hug their grandchildren.

    Recent updates to the guidelines have led the government to clarify, “People from two different households can meet indoors, which enables you to spend time with your grandchildren. At this time, we still advise that people from different households avoid close contact so childcare should only be provided if it is possible to socially distance from your grandchildren.

    “If you have formed a support bubble with your grandchildren’s household, which is allowed if either you or they live in a ‘single adult household’, then there can be close contact and social distancing is not necessary.”

    READ MORE: January lockdown: What we know so far about the ‘month long lockdown’ after Christmas

    This is because the risk of transmission indoor is still high. Physical contact could raise the risk of spreading/catching the coronavirus.

    The government still asks that we refrain from physical contact with anyone we do not live with. However, experts appear divided on whether hugging should be allowed or not. Many state that a quick hug may be a low-risk activity that would be hugely appreciated by people deprived of social contact for so many months.

    Can grandparents be visited at home?

    In many places in the UK, yes. According to the current guidancem, grandparents can also be visited in their home by their grandchildren if they are part of a support bubble or extended household.

    Credit: Getty Images

    However it is important to note though that, although many can now see grandparents and grandchildren, people over the age of 70 and those with underlying health conditions should still take extra precautions to protect their health.

    People who are clinically vulnerable (people over the age of 70, regardless of medical conditions), are now allowed to follow the same rules as everyone else. But they should still be extra vigilant in maintaining social distancing and hygiene measures.

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    If you, or a grandparent (or parent) are in the extremely vulnerable category, you should also have received a letter or advice from your GP on the measures you should be taking during the pandemic to protect your health.

    Meeting up outside still lowers the risk of infection significantly for example, so you may feel more comfortable meeting grandparents and grandchildren in gardens, perhaps.

    The British public are still urged to follow all social distancing and hygiene measures too. This includes washing your hands often and for 20 seconds. As well as not sharing any communal items, wearing a mask, and keeping a safe social distance of 1+ metres.

    Can grandchildren stay with grandparents?

    If the child and grandparents are not part of the same household, support bubble or extended household, then grandchildren cannot stay over at grandparent’s houses in many parts of the UK.

    But even when it’s legally allowed, the rules state that the public should use ‘common sense’ when it comes to shielding vulnerable members of the family. Those shielding appear to be encouraged by the government to make their own risk assessment.